Feeding Hungry People While Feeding the Future

Below is the second installment of MFAN’s blog series highlighting the reform aspects of Feed the Future, the United States Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. Feed the Future incorporates many key reform principles such as components of country ownership, strong monitoring and evaluation, and leveraging partnerships for enhanced results. To read the first blog in the series, Feed the Future: A Promising New Model of Development, click here. In this week’s post, Rick Leach, President and CEO of World Food Program USA focuses on both the short and long-term goals for food security as well as the importance of a comprehensive approach.

As Mr. Leach says, “This comprehensive approach makes foreign assistance more effective and leads to increased economic growth, which can open new markets for U.S. products and create new jobs at home.”

A Guest Blog Post by Rick Leach, President and CEO

World Food Program USA

The United States has been a long-standing leader in providing emergency food assistance to people in need around the world. From the food assistance provided under the Marshall Plan, which helped ensure prosperity for a generation of Europeans, to the lifesaving food provided in the wake of last year’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, U.S. food assistance has enjoyed decades of bipartisan support.

In recent years, support for food assistance has been unprecedented, as its efficiency and effectiveness continues to improve. Food is now reaching hungry people in need more quickly and more efficiently than ever before. The United States has increased the flexibility of food assistance by expanding prepositioning, so food is nearby when emergencies strike. And with U.S. cash-based assistance food also can be purchased locally, helping to revive and support local economies.

Now, with the administration’s new Feed the Future Initiative, the United States has matched its longstanding commitment to saving and rebuilding lives during emergencies with robust support for efforts to tackle an underlying cause of hunger.

AFG_200306_WFP-Alejandro_Chicheri_0014WFP/Alejandro Chicheri

During the 2008 food price crisis, the world witnessed the destabilizing effects that food insecurity had on the world’s poorest people, causing riots in 40 countries. In response the United States and G8 leaders issued a call to action: improved global food security would require a comprehensive approach, one which combined short-term food assistance with long-term development initiatives. This call to action has resulted in an unprecedented consensus on how to effectively address global hunger, from government leaders to recipient countries and international development organizations. The U.S. response to this call to action is Feed the Future, which complements U.S. food assistance with investments in nutrition and agricultural development to comprehensively address the short and long-term impacts of hunger.

The United States and its partners are now employing this multifaceted approach to solve hunger in countries around the world, including Afghanistan where the United States is tailoring its assistance to meet diverse needs on the ground. In cities, such as Kabul, where markets continue to function, the most food insecure families receive vouchers, which enable them to purchase food from local retailers, thereby bolstering local markets. In order to maintain food security and rebuild lives and communities after emergencies, vulnerable populations are provided with food in exchange for their participation in training programs or infrastructure projects, which helps strengthen the capacity of the Afghan people and build the Afghan economy.

U.S. anti-hunger initiatives also provide children in Afghanistan with food assistance specific to their needs. If children do not receive proper nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life (from conception to two years of age) they can suffer permanent mental and physical damage. Therefore, young children and mothers receive nutrient-rich food and nutritional products to ensure proper early development. In support of national efforts to strengthen the education system, school-age children are also encouraged to attend school with the promise of a meal. This not only increases enrollment, especially for girls, but also improves cognition so children are able to learn and retain information.

Finally, the United States and its partners are now embarking on a global effort to expand agricultural and rural development. One example of an innovative program is the World Food Program’s (WFP) Purchase for Progress initiative, supported by the United States and other donors, which has begun purchasing wheat directly from small-scale Afghan farmers. This initiative is increasing the productivity and income of small-scale farmers, improving their long-term food security. In turn, the wheat purchased by WFP has been used to provide assistance to Afghan families affected by flooding and to produce fortified biscuits for school meals programs.

This comprehensive approach makes foreign assistance more effective and leads to increased economic growth, which can open new markets for U.S. products and create new jobs at home. And by more effectively addressing emergency needs and transitioning countries to stable, productive societies, the United States is also building peace around the world. This means improved national security and as Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said, “development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.” These investments are small but the reward is great. Providing food for hungry people today while growing food to feed future generations is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.

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